After visiting so many castles and palaces you find yourself asking, “How did they build this?” In the United States our oldest buildings are a little over 200 years. We are amazed if anyone lives in a house over 100 years old. Here grand homes are over 500 years old. It seems that everyone should have been living in hovels 500 years ago, but no, they had great big multi-story homes with cool things called ‘keeps’ and ‘murder holes’.
In the 90’s a group of French men asked themselves the question, “How do you build a castle?” And then they decided to do it. For the past 15 years there Guedelon castle has been in the making. The builders are trying to stay as authentic to the 13th century designs and materials as possible. The expectation is that it will be complete in the year 2025. The castle is being built with materials on site and with tools and machinery that is true to 13th century design. This includes treadmill winches [corrected from the previous spelling of ‘wenches’ which gave it an entirely different meaning] which are essentially hamster-wheels for humans that function as cranes.
The site is the castle under construction as well as numerous outbuildings with the different craftsman – ropemaker, carpenters, blacksmith, stone masons. It was much like Conner Prairie with a single purpose. Unfortunately the site was not attuned to an English speaking family. We were competing with multiple school groups – we found ourselves eavesdropping on whatever spiel was being given by the artisan to the school group. It was all in French so we could really only appreciate the demonstration portions. There was one carpenter who said to us, “I speak English if you have any questions”. We certainly impressed her with our insightful query of, “What are you making?”
The building process is a study in itself – archeologists aren’t altogether sure how things were done so they study other castles and try out different methods until they think they got it right. They built 3 different kilns before they figured out which made the roof tiles the correct way. This would be a really fun place to visit year after year to see the progress. The site has been so successful that it is self sustaining and there are plans to build a village once the Castle is complete. Maybe we can swing by and see the finished Castle when we come check out the completed Sagradia Familia in 2026.
Our decision to stay in the Loire Valley is directly attributed to my friend Martin, the owner of the house where we stayed. Martin and I met at Camp Tecumseh over 20 years ago! This getaway is a remote hamlet in a charming town away from the hustle and bustle of cities. It was a much needed time of relaxation for us. The only downside is that we were not able to meet up with Martin and his family but we are ever so grateful for his generosity and friendship.
SUPPLEMENTAL – Added 10 April 2014
In response to Dad’s comment regarding the Masons and Jacques Demolay, we searched out his memorial in Paris today. Voila!